“What the heck am I doing.”

There are days when I think, “What the heck am I doing.” The past few days have been among them.

Archery is a humbling sport. Just when you think things are getting good well things fall apart. Lately, my shots have been flying all over the place. That is all over the yellow ring and just away from the center. To be fair some arrows land in the center. To be sure, not of enough arrows have been landing in the center. It leads to a degree of frustration.

That level of irritation is complied with the pressure of knowing I have not been shooting enough 3D. All the time being spent on 18-meters has limited the occasion where 3D takes priority.

From around 9:00 AM this morning until noon I flung arrows 18-meters. Back and forth I walked to collect arrows that seemed to land all around the center. Only 12% of the 100 plus projectiles smacked home with all the others scoring nines. It was truly aggravating.


Of the last six shots the first 2 landed in the nine ring and then an X. The next 3 were all Xs. I decided to stop on a high point, rest and head back out after lunch.

Reversing a Downward Spiral

The past few weeks have been a flurry of competitive shooting.  It began with a USA Archery Sanctioned Indoor 18-meter event in Columbus, NC.  That was quickly followed by two leagues shoots and a Christmas Tournament in Elizabeth City, NC.

All four of these were interposed on other forms of sports training. Not to mention hours of archery practice everyday. After competing today, my wife Brenda mentioned, “You look tired.” Well, I admit, I was a bit tired. Maybe that had a little to do with shooting below par, maybe not.

The four shoots mentioned are not ‘A’ events.  They are all ‘C’ level events.  I rank competitions based on the goal of the contest.  Certainly, it is nice to win, but the primary objective in a ‘C’ is to discover what it takes to win.  In that effort I often try something I’ve practiced that I am not 100% comfortable with.  Examples of this are: a change of my release, my anchor point, or weight distribution on stabilizers.

During the all events I make notes, sometimes during the shooting, but always afterwards on problems or about things that worked.  What I know from the data is that I have been dropping points at each shoot.  Not horribly, but definitely moving in the wrong directions.  Reviewing my notes and data indicated the point degradation was associated with change I made in my release. It probably wasn’t a matter of fatigue as Brenda’s earlier comment suggested.

After shooting another low score today, dropping 19 points at 18-meters, it seemed clear there needed to be an adjustment.  I made one, another, then another, and after shooting to verify those changes I set up to test the modifications.

River checking my groups between playing catch

Those modifications weren’t huge, the misses had not been that far from center.  It turned out on a test at 18-meters in my yard and at that point 3 hours of shooting behind me, my test results revealed an improvement of 8 points, still down 11 by moving in the right directions.

Tomorrow I’ll be back on the front yard range hopefully continuing to move a positive direction.

No Gains to Be Found in the Release

PGF Outdoors in Elizabeth City has a league competition underway. There are a number of really good archers shooting. Several have attended USA Archery Indoor Nationals and many are upper level 3D shooters. One travels the country competing – and she’s the youngest among the top archers.


I’ve been shooting in those league events. There will be eight contests before the conclusion and were at number four in the series. The target is a Vegas 3-spot, 30 arrows and they are scoring the outer 10 ring as a 10 and in inner as a 10X. With that larger 10 ring I would hope to have been shooting 300 every time.

Because the range is small (still a nice size for an archery shop) archers can compete on Thursday night or Saturday morning

I shot my best score the first night. That time I used a thumb release. All other times I have used a hinge release. My average has been 287 with last night’s low of 285 and the thumb release night earning a score of 289. It has been somewhat frustrating. I feel I should be shooting no less than 296 with by now at least one 300. But, it just isn’t happening.

It’s not like my arrows are all over the place. The groups are tight even though last night I hit one 8.

A recent article in Live Science investigators pointed out something all elite swimmers already know – they go faster with their fingers slightly apart. The increase in speed is very little, however, when hundredths or thousandths of a second separates these athletes every little marginal gain counts. I’ve written about marginal gains and where they might be found in archery.

When it comes to swim fast is good – coming out of the water under your own power is Rule Number 1.

By marginal gains I mean those small measures of improving an element of performance that when added together mount up to important differences. I’ve also mentioned that I am looking for a 4% gain in the past in order to reach an elite competitive status. That 4% had been 6%, then 5%, and 4%. I don’t attribute much of the 2% gain to practice. The gain came too fast for athletic improvement. I feel that small amount came from a change in stabilizers and addition weight.

Equipment can account for margin gains. The stabilizer improvements attest to the value of equipment to some degree. It still takes practice to get the most out of equipment and I practice a lot.


In an experiment to learn whether the thumb release is an approach to gain a percentage I shot all morning going back and forth with a thumb versus hinge. Absolutely no difference over 120 arrows. Exact number of 10s and 9s every time. At the end of all scoring exactly 4% off the mark. But, I am fairly sure there are no more gains to be found from the release products I own.

A Typical Training Day

This is how it rolls:

Up at 0600. Cook or prepare breakfast. Today it was prepare (not a hot meal). The first meal of this November day was yogurt, granola, fresh fruit, maple syrup, coffee and orange juice. That eaten it is outside to run with River.

The first range time begins at 0730. This morning the practice is focused on paper targets shooting from 20 to 40 yards.

At 0930 it is time to leave for the YMCA. The workout there begins at 1000. That session begins with a swim, followed by weight lifting and running on the treadmill.

Home by 1230 and time for lunch. After lunch there’s a short nap from 1300 to 1335.

From 1335 until 1430 check emails. Let sponsors know I am still interested and will complete their paperwork soon.

Afternoon archery practice session number two begins at 1430 and runs until 1600.  The paper distance was 35 to 55 yards then shift to 3D. It ended early because it started to rain. Usually I shoot until it is too dark to see during the fall and winter months.

Finally, on the bike and ride the Computrainer – 1630 until 1730.

Dinner, news, write some for this webpage, watch a couple of episodes of some Netflix show, hit the hay, read (Moneyball by Michael Lewis), fall asleep around 2230.

And that’s a day.

Back and forth with releases

My friend was once a serious archer and shot in the pro class. Today, he shoots less because running his bow shop keeps him too busy. He suggested I try his thumb release. It was fine as are my hinge releases.

Shooting with a hinge seems cool and a lot of the top archers use a hinge release. I’ve noted that the hinge style release is not the exclusive model for top archers. Over the 38 months that I’ve been shooting, I’ve been keeping data on hinge versus thumb. There is no difference, well one point in favor of the thumb.

Nevertheless, I have reverted to the hinge style.  Once I find just the right place for my anchor I think I’ll have it.

Working With Hand Placement

Using a hinge release there seems to be, at least for me, a variance in the arrow placement that is depends on where I anchor my hand. There is also the matter of comfort, easy of release activation, and sway control that fluctuates with where I anchor the hand and release. Today I worked on refining that specific location.

Repeated as exactly as possible with only a shift in the anchor point pulled the arrow away from center.

Certainly, I have a good point where I anchor. Nevertheless, that point has been a general placement arrived upon though practice and coaching. The practice today was intended to further polish the anchor point. That was one part of the practice. The other part was to experiment and learn what happens with minor variances of the anchor point.

Notes on the shots and results

Throughout the practice I keep notes on shots. Those notes may help as I find the point of maximal benefit for hitting a consistent point on a target – shot after shot.

All Day Training

It was cold enough this morning, 36° F, and windy enough to run me into my shed to practice 18-meters. The space heater inside the shed makes a significant difference and being blocked from wind is a bonus. But, this practice was just part of a long day.

This space heater on the wall is excellent on cold days.

I shot for about an hour before heading into Elizabeth City for my fitness training. At the Y the first order of business was swimming. For whatever reason the Y here keeps their locker room at meat storage temperature. It’s bad preparing to get into pool; it is awful during the return trip. Being wet walking into that locker room is painful. Not as bad as sitting in a tub of ice, but bad enough.

I moved the Tower of Targets to face the shed. Typically it sits closer to that leaning pine tree.
The view from inside my shed toward the target (prior to moving it forward)

There is no break here in the locker room. A quick shower and change for weights. Weight lifting is a Monday, Wednesday, Friday activity. Afternoon archer practice following those mornings can be a challenge. Before getting to that challenge and after weights there was time spent on a treadmill.

Some folks can run on treadmills all day. I have a friend that routinely spends two hours exercising like a human version of a hamster. Six miles is the maximum I every gone on treadmill. If I plan to run far, I prefer doing it outdoors.

Preparing to ride inside

With the treadmill behind me, it was home for lunch and more archery. Yes, as I thought, my arms let me know I’d been to the gym. While I didn’t shoot any worse or better than par for me, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday archery practice is less of a muscular marathon.

Writing now, I am on a break. Next on the plan is time on a bike. Why all the exercise, well it is good for me and good for archery.

The Right Number of Arrows to Shoot Per Day

I am working on my 2017 training and competition plans. Out of curiosity I looked for plans written by archery coaches. There were a lot programs. Many of them where nothing more than a review of how to fitness train for archery. The USA Archery plan was a data entry spreadsheet. While there may be a good plan out there I stopped looking. What I was finding wasn’t all that informative. Heck, one plan was an endurance cardio plan that had been poorly modified for archery.

But, it got me thinking, not that this is an exclusive element to performance, how many arrows do top archers shoot per day?

The range was vast. There were people claiming to be elite archers than practice a few times a week and shoot about 100 arrows per week. One person posted that Olympic archers shoot 5000 arrows per week. I did the math on 5000 arrows a week -nope that’s not a real number.

Most of my daily plans call for a minimum number of arrows for each day of training. The quantity of arrows isn’t the focus. The primary aim is the type of shooting.

I often start out like this, but it doesn’t last.

Practice for 3D might be yardage repeats. Shooting repeats will end up having a lot more arrows shot that stickily 3D target practice. The difference could be as many as 60 arrows. For 18-meters I might end up shooting 300 arrows in a day. For 50 meters it will be less because I’ll spend more time walking back and forth to the target. There is only so much time in a day.

Here’s what I know, I can spend about 6 hours a day shooting before it becomes a low return exercise. I know that for muscular endurance and neurological  development it take a lot of arrows.

Yardage repeats mean breaking arrows.

Right now I’m shooting on average of 156 arrows a day. That’s the average. Some days I may only shoot 30 arrows, active recovery days. Other days I’ll shoot over 200. But, I’m not just slinging arrows. And the time spend shooting excludes blind bailing, and fitness workouts.

Nearly every day is broken into two or three pure archery practice session. Each has a specific goal. The pure archery training takes from 1 to 6 hours. Every week I include a light day and there is always a heavy day. Then, there are days that are real specific or very diverse.

Shooting Robin Hoods is expensive. When I am working on form I often use a less expensive arrow so the loss isn’t so great. Here I was trying to get it right a 60 yards. Trying to pull the group over to the center.

So, the right number of arrows for me, at the moment seems to be around 1092 arrows per week. Thirty arrows a few times a week are way to little, 5000 arrows per week seems like an exaggeration. One thousand ninety-two is a good number if archery is your only job.

Pin nock have saved me some money.

(Note: Shooting a lot means going through a lot of arrows. It would be real nice to have an arrow sponsor.)

Needed 3D and a New Bird

Training for 18-meters is fun. Shooting in the woods is, well, more fun – at least for me.  Lately, though the focus of training has been 18-meters. My primary bow, an Elite 35 Energy, is set-up for indoors. To shoot 3D I have to make all sorts of adjustments, twists and turns. Then, the reverse is needed to go back to 18-meters.

I admit, I frequently make the adjustments twice a day. It doesn’t take long, about 20 minutes to get everything sorted. It can make a person envious of folks that have multiple bows.

Actually, I have two bows. Aside from my Elite I have my original bow a Mathews Apex 7. Today, after a couple of hours at an indoor range, I decided to grab that Mathews and set it up for 3D.

I shot my less expensive arrows in case I was all over the place

Once home from indoor practice – wait. Indoor practice was more than shooting for two hours. It started with swimming followed by weight lifting, which added another 90 minutes to training. After that, at home, I added a short stabilizer to the Apex 7 and a pin sight.

3D practice with River includes “throw the stick”

It took a short while to get my pins relatively set before impatience pulled me into the woods. The pins were on at 20 yards and 40 yards. Outside of that is was guesswork.

The yellow pin looked like a choice selection for 35 yards (the old bird)

A bonus was a new turkey. I’d ordered it at PGF Archery in Elizabeth City where I practiced earlier in the day. Weeks ago I cleared a spot for a new target and the turkey was within my budget. This bird is set so that to retrieve arrows the approach is from behind. That allows from a more nature landscape between a stake and the target.

The new bird on the range

Being in the woods, even with a ‘nearly’ set bow and sight, was a nice break to the back and forth walking done when training at 18-meters.

Range Notes

“If you don’t measure you can’t manage.”  When I worked in the medical field quality control was a part of my life.  I was constantly recording data for quality assurance. A bonus is, I really enjoy statistics.  Today, I measure and manage all sorts of data when it comes to athletics – mine to be exact.

When I look at my training plan for a practice session I also consider how best to monitor and measure that practice.  On Excel I have a data bank filled with spreadsheets, each of those having subsets of data.  It might sound a bit intimidating but it’s easy.

There are commercial apps that people use instead of their own systems.  I prefer mine since I am more familiar with what it does and how my brain worked it out.

On the range I take notes, snap photographs, sometimes make videos and record scores.  Therein lays the data I mine. Here’s an example of my hand notes from practice.  Aside from the scored points you can see (but probably not read) notes where I made a change.  These notes further include where I did something on a shot I wanted to remember what it was that happened.

Notes form the range

Examples of these notes include (since you can’t read them and they’d make no sense if you could):

45 degree angle  – meaning where my hand was positioned.

Pull to side angle – meaning my pull positioned with my elbow flat

Rushed a shot – meaning I screwed up by rushing through a shot.

When I finish practice I evaluate my range notes.  Much is tranfered to one of the spreadsheets.  Those allow me to drill down and measure progress.

If you’re not measuring you are not managing, and there’s nothing wrong with that, you are shooting for fun.